A Century Year Old Tradition – The Walnut Room at Christmas



 Chicago is definitely a holiday town.  If you are hankering for a white Christmas, the Windy City will cater to every childhood notion about the season. From the stores on the Mag Mile to the trees, you will definitely be feeling that Christmas spirit.

Get into that holiday spirit by having lunch in the Walnut Room.  Before it was Macy’s, the State Street store was called Marshall Field’s. Look all around the store and you will find remainders of the old staple of Chicago. One of the parts of the store that was kept was the Walnut Room.  Best known as the first restaurant in the country and also the longest continuing restaurant in a department store. , Macy’s is definitely a stop on your holiday trip to Chicago. It will put the biggest Scrooges in a yuletide mood.  But be warned. YOU WILL HAVE A WAIT .   You will have to go to a stand and then signup for a pager. This will give you an opportunity to explore what was once the premiere store of the Midwest. The store has a rich history as well as great shopping in the present Macy’s tradition. When your table is ready, it will summon you back for your Christmas experience.

The centerpiece of the room is the Great Tree.  This 45 foot symbol of the season has been in the same place for at least 50 years. Early in December, Macy’s welcomes Santa and lights the tree. Diners can take photos and selfies right by the tree. You also might be fortunate to be welcomed by the many sugar plum fairies that stroll around and grant wishes. But this is just part of the fun, there is also the food .

The Walnut Room really gets in the spirit. They have even prepared a special menu just for diners . You can even go home with a special souvenir mug. On this particular day, I enjoyed one of the pointsettas. This consisted of cranberry juice and sparkling wine in a flute. Very elegant and appropriate for this historical landmark. Jen had a delicious lemonade. Since I was feeling like a kid again, I decided this time to just get when I was a kid and that was a cheeseburger.(Till the age of ten when my late father said no more cheeseburgers when I would get them in whatever type of restaurant we were eating at.) We finished off the meal with a real special treat, a caramel macchiato pot de crème . The white chocolate mousse was rich and the sea salt caramel sauce mixed to give almost a tirasmu taste to this fancy dessert.

The Great Tree will be up until January 7. The Walnut Room has special holiday hours and also is having a special breakfast as well. For more info go to macyrestauraurants.com . Make it a special Chicago with this holiday tradition. 

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Mamma Mia! What an Experience!  Vero Pizza and Pasta

Imagine the scenario that you have had an emergency and someone you love has gone to the hospital. Or maybe your boss has invited her and her spouse to dinner. You don’t have time to run to the store or get a caterer. Well let me tell you about a new service that can help make your life a little easier. Here in the Midwest, I came across a subscription meal service that embraces that old world Italian feel. They also use only the freshest ingredients and best of all it ‘s fun. Vero Pizza and Pasta is stationed out of St Louis.  It’s family feel comes from the “Collier” family and the time they spent in Italy. I told them that Jen is part Sicilian and grew up with homemade Italian. They were definitely up for the challenge.

They make sure that you get your package and their customer service rocks. Johnny made sure that we got taken care of when we had some shipping issues. They also pack some goodies so the whole family can have fun while they learn about cooking and the Italian culture. Ours had hats and coloring for Halloween . We had fun doing them. They picked two dishes , a pasta and a pizza.

They send you all of the ingredients , meat , cheese, and spices. Cheese is definitely the word. Have no fear, if you can’t cook they send easy recipes with all the steps. If you still are confused, just watch one of the videos that shows you how. The first dish was a scrumptious Casio de Pepe shells and broccoli rabe. The shells were the freshest and actually had to pulled out before they were cooked. The sauce was heavenly and creamy and the broccoli was fresh.  The second  dish was more conventional  and much more fun . It was also a little more messy. Coming from the city known for pizza, actually making our own pizza from the dough was interesting. We added all of the ingredients , except the swiss chard. It was as good as the fancy , designer pizzas that we taste for the blog.  The verdict is that they use ingredients that are not likely to get thrown away. The swiss chard I used to put on sandwiches and burgers that following week, so nothing went to waste.

The greatest part is that the purchased meal  also provides  for a child that normally won’t eat. It is nice to know that the kids in third world countries can be fed, but remember even here at home children are starving.  Operation Food Service in St Louis has partnered up with Vero to make sure those kids have warm food in their stomachs.  Vero Pizza and Pasta is stationed in St Louis but will ship. For more info: visit http://www.pizzaandpasta.com

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Urban Crosta- Streeterville ‘s Answer to Gourmet Pizza 

It could be described as a cross between  Chicago and New York style pizzas. But one thing for sure is that  it is truly extraordinary. Located off of the Mag Mile in Streeterville, Urban Crosta is the perfect break from shopping, an evening at the theatre, or just something to pick up on the way home from work. It is located near Hotel  Row and convenient to  Lurie Children’s and Northwestern Medical Centers.  But if you are tired of the conventional and chain pizzas, this is a place that you should definitely check out.

We started out with our usual beverages. Jen had her soda and I pondered the cocktail menu. I found a winner with the Tipsy Tea. It was a mixture of sweet tea vodka, peach puree, lemon juice , and Old Forrester Bourbon. Surprisingly, it had a refreshing taste and the puree countered the whiskey. It was a yummy way to start the meal.

While we were trying to decide on what pizza to have, we nibbled on one of the appetizers. The Spinach Artichoke dip was outstanding.  The chiles gave the dip a little bit of a kick but it was married well with the parmesan cheese . It gave the rather plain dip a sophisticated taste.

 The salads had that gourmet taste as well. They were not just lettuce and veggies, they were truly works of art. The Caesar was garnished with anchovies as well as the requisite croutons and parmesan. My salad was called the Arugula Avocado. The best part of the salad was the citrusy feel combined with the goat cheese and pieces of grapefruit . The salad was drizzled with a balsamic orange vinaigrette. The light taste was a nice overture to the main course. 

Crosta’s spotlight was definitely the pizza and we were happy to find out that they also sell by the slice. Not only that, you can also make your own slice. Perfect for that upcoming holiday shopping.  I had to try their steak chimichurra pizza. The skirt steak was tender and I liked that it that thick thin crust with the kicky taste. Since Jen is Sicilian, to her pizza is sacred and she went with their “build your own’ pizza option. The pizzas are made in stone ovens and that’s what gives it that gourmet taste. She made a pizza with mozzarella, mushrooms, olives, and sausage and everything was so fresh I could smell the mushrooms as we took them home.  

The perfect ending to a meal like this was the perfect dessert and that is exactly what we had . We were treated with a piece of the sweetest and most moist piece of cheesecake and the richest tiramisu . It was the most excellent way to end this Italian eating experience. Brava! To the people at Urban Crosta!

Urban Crosta is located at 355 E Ohio, a block from Lake Shore Drive and a couple blocks from the Mag Mile. They don’t open until 4 but stay open till midnight on Fri and Sat. The rest of the week they are open until ten. It is the perfect rest from the hustle and bustle of the Mag Mile.

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Gabrielle Union Helps to Tame Frizzies with Flawless

Everyone that has curly hair wants straight and vice versa. One of the biggest problems of the summer is frizzy hair. Take it from someone who had to put a ton of hair spray when she had her senior picture taken. But I was given a gift . I was sent a package of goodies from Gabrielle Union . They call the line Flawless and that is just it has done made my hair flawless when it was straightened. It has made it silky and soft.  The shampoo and conditioner have a golden color and a great smell. Flawless also works on color treated hair and doesn’t fade it. It not only takes care of the frizzies and heals damaged hair, it also strengthens hair.  It is also cruelty free .

I highly recommend the products. Through the years with wind, and chemicals , and harsh lights, I have had my hair damaged a lot. These products, including the hair repair masque have started to repair some of the damage. Thanks to Gabrielle Union, my hair is back on the road to recovery.

You can find Gabrielle Union’s products at Ulta and online


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Fall is a Delicious Season at Smallcakes …..

 Autumn is a feast of the senses. Everything from the colorful leaves to the smells of hot cider and pumpkin latte says that fall is here. Along with those smells, come the special foods of fall . Apples are made into pies and crisps. Pumpkins are carved into scary creatures and now made into everything from cereal to pizza. But with those fall flavors come great treats. Hey! You can indulge because Christmas is around the corner and bathing suit season is a memory.

One of the best places to indulge that sweet tooth is Smallcakes Cupcakery. They have a few locations , we chose to revisit the one on Greenview in Lakeview. It is a popular place for kids and also for families. We were happy to see that they still had the pupcakes and also that they remembered us. What was really cool was that they had our order prepared for us when we arrived. Now to enjoying the tastes of fall.

Jen is mad about the Pumpkin cupcake and its brown sugar cream cheese frosting. It reminded me of pumpkin bread that my mother used to make. It had that special pumpkin taste and it didn’t have too much spice in it. My favorite was the Mississippi Mud one. I am such a choco –holic and this one was perfect for me. The frosting was chock full of pecans, vanilla bean butter cream, and marshmallow. The cake was a luscious chocolate graham cake. Since I come from Ohio, I always associate apples with fall and was also excited with the special Apple Orchard Cupcake. It captured everything that I remember about those Ohio falls growing up.  The cider cake mixed well with the cream cheese and caramel that was on the top. The perfect touch was the apple perched on top as a garnish. We came in for our favorite tastes of fall and were not disappointed. There was even a cupcake that was called Everything Fall and it combined all the best tastes of Autumn.

So if you have a special occasion or a theme party , Smallcakes A Cupcakery and Creamery is the place for that one of a kind cake. Don’t forget, they also have ice cream and their trademark cupcake smashes. They are located at 3054 N Greenview Avenue. 

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 A Little Taste of the Big Apple- Joe’s Tea and Chips 


Recently, I visited New York City . While I was there, I got the chance to try some exceptional tea. As you well know, tea is my Kryptonite. Jen has her soda and I have my teas. I only tried one but the great folks at Joe’s Tea sent me a nice little goodie package.  I got to tell you, most of the time I have to have my Snapple, but after tasting Joe’s , well there might be a little bit of competition.

Not as known as Arizona or Snapple, Joe’s comes from Elizabeth , New Jersey.  Twenty years ago, the company decided to sell iced tea out of the back of a Dodge Intrepid. True to its roots, the company has a picture of that truck on each bottle.  Company rep Sally Russell added that their product tends to appeal  to stores seeking products that help differentiate their business. The company sells about twenty beverages. Of course, I could only have a small sample of the teas and lemonades. The drinks have a more pronounced flavor than Snapple.  Joe’s also elevates itself as a special beverage , considerably has a more sophisticated following than the lesser Arizona. The lemonade has that tangy natural lemonade flavor. The peach tea has that sun tea flavor with the richest peach flavor I have tasted. But by far, the one I enjoyed was the half tea and half lemonade. I love what one company calls the “Arnold Palmer”, but Joes has taken the concept to another level. The tea and lemonade are equals and not one flavor outweighs the other.  Joe’s only uses natural ingredients  and cane sugar. That is what makes it special than other drinks.

I also got a chance to try the other product of the company. Encouraged by the sales of their teas, Joe’s Chips was born.  Their taste has that homemade kettle flavor which makes the chips heartier than the usual thin chips that are fried. The chips are full bodied and definitely filling. They are perfect with a sandwich or just by themselves. The sweet potato chips had a pumpkin taste and I couldn’t stop talking about the sweet onion flavor in the sour cream and onion chips. The chips come in the 2 oz and 5 oz sizes and the beverages come in an old fashioned glass bottle.



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Bon Jour New York! Sezane Comes to America

It was the perfect time for the French clothing company to come to America. Sezane landed on America’s shores during one of NY’s biggest celebrations of the year, NYFW. Fashionistas made their way to the chic Elizabeth Street location to browse the store and pick up a goodie or two. Sezane has wanted their clothing and merchandise to become an online business and this store was a big part of that. Founder Morgane Sezalory said that the store’s fall collection was  the magic of Paris and the energy of New York.  I think the store captures that spirit. I was not familiar with the brand, but was anxious to see what a real New York fashion boutique looked like. I have to admit that the stores I visited had that NY vibe that Chicago just doesn’t have.

Other  fashionistas stood in line for an opportunity to shop and browse the French boutique. On a particularly warm September  afternoon,  clerks from the store came outside and gave the crowd bottles of Evian water to keep them hydrated. Finally I got the opportunity to walk inside. The clothes were hung on cloth hangers and not bunched together. It was obviously quality merchandise. My only concern is that the beautiful clothes would not fit the large frame of an American woman. It was something to shoot for in the future. I was excited to see some of the little knick knacks on display. One that caught my eye was the adorable little cocktail kits. I was sent one of the same from OPI in one of my little surprise boxes.

 Shoppers enjoyed French pastries and one of the friendly clerks escorted me through the store. This is definitely a collection that I will be watching for as more clothes come out in their Winter Collection due in November.

After taking a few more pictures, the manager gifted me with two souvenirs . She gave me one of the special crème and gold striped Sezane bags. The bag is huge and is perfect for shopping or travel. She also gave me one of the very special bags that were created for the American launch. The large bag proved to be very useful during my stay in NYC. Sezane is located at 254 Elizabeth Street in Manhattan.

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